Our body is made up of millions and billions of cells that have the ability to grow and divide in order to form new cells.
Sometimes this process goes wrong. The body starts creating new cells even if not required and the old or damaged cells accumulate. This leads to a build-up of excess cells, forming a mass of tissue called lump or growth or tumor.
Tumors in the breast can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).
Benign tumors are:
- Generally not harmful
- Don’t spread to other parts of the body
- Can be removed and doesn’t grow back
- Rarely invade other tissues of the body
Malignant tumors are:
- May be a threat to life
- Can spread to other parts of the body
- Often can be removed but sometimes grow back
- Can invade nearby tissues (such as the chest wall)
Types of Breast Cancer
The most common type of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma. As the name suggests, this type of cancer begins with a tumor in the ducts of the breasts. About 7 out of 10 women with breast cancer have ductal carcinoma.
The second most common type of breast cancer is lobular carcinoma. Going by the name, this kind of cancer begins in a lobule of the breasts. About 1 out 10 women with breast cancer have lobular carcinoma.
Some women have a mixture of both ductal and lobular carcinoma and other less common types of breast cancer.
Facts About Breast Cancer
- The median age of diagnosis is 62.
- Men, too, can develop breast cancer. Although the chances are less than 1%, it is still possible.
- Prevention is better than cure; and in the case of breast cancer, the best prevention method is stopping it before it develops. This can be done through regular checkups and diagnosis.
- White women are more likely to get breast cancer as compared to black or brown women. But black or brown women are more likely to develop aggressively.
Breast Cancer Symptoms that You Need to Know
The Easiest and Most important way to keep up with your Breast Health is to actually know how your breasts normally look and feel and to look for the changes that may occur.
Knowing your breast becomes important because early diagnosis of breast cancer increases the treatment success and survival rates by almost 90%.
Below are some common symptoms that are known to be the signs of a possible Breast cancer:
1. A Lump in Your Breast
A lump or a mass in the breast is the most common signs of a possible breast cancer. These lumps can be painful or painless. All lumps are not cancerous, some lumps can be formed because of non-cancerous cysts as well. It is very important to have your doctor check the lump thoroughly.
2. Swelling in or Around Your Breast
Breast swelling can be caused by inflammatory breast cancer, a precisely aggressive form of breast cancer.
A Swollen Mass or lumps around your collarbone or armpits can be a result of breast cancer that has spread to lymph nodes in those areas of the body. This needs an immediate checkup.
3. Skin Thickening or Redness
The skin of your breast is reddish without any reason or there is a thickness of the skin of your breast. The symptom can be a common infection and may also be caused by breast inflammation due to cancer. Get it checked immediately.
4. Breast Warmth or itching
The warming sensation and itching without any known cause can also be the symptom of inflammatory breast cancer.
5. Change in Nipples
Check your nipples regularly. If there is any visible change in the color or the skin thickness or there are scales developed around them, get it immediately checked.
6. Nipple Discharge
Anything other than milk coming out of your nipples is an alarming sign. It may be an infection or a simple wound but if the fluid is bloody, immediately consult your doctor.
How To Prevent Breast Cancer
1. Reduce Alcohol Intake
The more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk to develop breast cancer. The recommended amount, as suggested by researchers, is less than 1 drink a day.
2. Quit Smoking
Overall, not smoking is the best gift you can give to your body. Smoking increases your risk of breast cancer.
3. Control Your Weight
It is absolutely important to love yourself and your body, but taking care of yourself is equally important. Controlling your weight and hence preventing obesity is one of the best ways to avoid many deadly diseases, including breast cancer. So, stop thinking and start exercising!
For all the mothers out there, breastfeeding is not only healthy for your baby but also for you. It reduces the risks of any formation of the tumor.
5. Limit Your Hormone Therapy dosages
Hormone therapy for more than 3-5 years increases the risk of breast cancer. You may want to consider other options if you’re taking hormonal treatment before menopause. You might be able to manage your symptoms with non-hormonal therapies and medications. If short-term hormone therapies work for you, continue them and ask your doctor to monitor the duration you have been undergoing these therapies.
6. Avoid exposure to Radiations
Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation. Some researchers suggest a link between breast cancers and radiation exposure. Do not have these tests unless absolutely necessary.
7. Eat Healthy
Maintaining a healthy diet might decrease your risk of some types of cancer, as well as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. For example, women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts might have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Choose healthy fats, like olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat.
Treatment of Breast Cancer
Depending on type and stage, there are different ways to treat breast cancer.
1. Local Treatment
Some treatments are called local therapies, meaning they treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body. Types of local therapy used for breast cancer include:
b) Radiation therapy
Although these treatments are usually used for early stages, some cases may get these treatments during advanced stages too.
2. Systematic Treatment
Breast cancers can also be treated using drugs, which can be given by mouth or directly into the bloodstream. As these therapies can reach cancer cells anywhere in the body, they are called systematic therapies. Depending on the type of breast cancer, several different types of drugs might be used, including:
b) Hormone therapy
c) Targeted therapy
Many women will get more than one type of treatment for their cancer.
3. Typical Treatment
Most women with breast cancers have some type of surgery to remove the tumor. Surgery is less likely to be the main part of the treatment for more advanced breast cancers.
Based on special situations, type, and stages, typical treatments include:
a) Invasive breast cancer (stages I-IV)
b) Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
c) Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS)
d) Inflammatory breast cancer
e) Breast cancer during pregnancy
Your treatment plan will depend on other factors as well, including your overall health and personal preferences.